Warner Bros. // 2010 // 91 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Paul Pritchard (Retired) // August 7th, 2011
"Today's the day."
Don't Call Them Sidekicks Anymore!
Young Justice follows the adventures of Robin, Aqualad, Kid Flash, Superboy, and M'gann M'orzz, who form an offshoot of The Justice League in an attempt to prove themselves to Superman, Batman, and their allies. This first volume contains the opening four episodes of the series:
* "Independence Day"
Feeling aggrieved that their entry into The Justice League has been blocked, Robin, Aqualad, and Kid Flash set out to prove themselves. Investigating a fire at Cadmus Labs, the trio encounters sinister goings on and a race of telepaths, the Genomorphs. Most worrying of all is the discovery of Project Kr (a.k.a. Superboy), a clone of Superman developed as a weapon.
Having freed Superboy from the control of the Genomorphs, the young heroes must escape from Cadmus labs, but their job is made all the more difficult when Dr. Mark Desmond -- tasked with stopping them -- utilizes the Blockbuster serum, transforming him into the monstrous supervillain, Blockbuster.
* "Welcome to Happy Harbor"
With M'gann M'orzz added to the team, and The Justice League bringing them onboard for covert operations, the group faces their first official adversary, Mister Twister. Meanwhile, Speedy, formally the Green Arrow's sidekick, refuses to join the team.
* "Drop Zone"
Batman assigns the team their first real mission, which sees them wind up in the middle of a war between villains Kobra and Bane. Realizing that up to this point they have acted as individuals, the group elects Aqualad as their leader.
Though it's still early days for Young Justice, there are signs that, given time, it could develop into a worthy companion to the classic Justice League animated series. With the likes of Greg Weisman (The Spectacular Spider-Man) onboard, that shouldn't be too much of a surprise.
What Young Justice gets so right, crucially, is the balance it finds between action and exposition. Each episode included in this volume is so perfectly paced that even the most diehard DC aficionado should be too engrossed to find fault with some of the (mostly minor) tweaks some of the characters have undergone. The volume's opening two-parter (made up of the episodes "Independence Day" and "Fireworks") opens with a bang, as a quartet of super villains launches simultaneous attacks on Gotham, Pearl Harbor, Central City, and Star City, and just never lets up. Once the main adventure gets underway, and our heroes have entered Cadmus labs, Young Justice really begins to show its class. There's no attempt to ground these superheroes in reality, and, as such, Young Justice fully embraces the more fantastical elements of the DC Universe and is all the more entertaining for it. Once inside, Cadmus Labs is revealed to be a wonderland of genetic mutations, and is not just a little sinister thanks in no small way to the telepathic Genomorphs. These bizarre creations are suitably menacing, as they are found to have taken control of both the superhero Guardian and Project Kr, a.k.a. Superboy. It is also in the lower depths of Cadmus that we get our first glimpse of The Light, the evil force that -- it would seem -- will be playing a major role in future events. This council of seven (only ever seen as a bright white light) dictates the practices of Cadmus, and are not backward in divulging their willingness to take on the Justice League head first, with or without Superboy. Throw in a fun showdown with the colossal supervillain Blockbuster, and we have ourselves a show.
The dynamic within the team is what really makes Young Justice so appealing. The group's assault on Cadmus is, initially, a disorganized near-disaster. Each one -- Robin, Aqualad, and Kid Flash -- is quick to show off his own attributes, but unwilling or unable to see how best to integrate them into a cohesive unit. However, through the course of the mission, and once Superboy joins their number, they begin to form an understanding that proves successful. It's also pleasing that the show doesn't overplay the teen angst angle. Sure, these "sidekicks" are disgruntled when it is made clear they won't be made full members of The Justice League (at least not yet), but rather than just whine about it, these superhero wannabe's get out there and do something about it.
The shows animation style is immediately pleasing, delivering a clean style that combines traditional U.S. Saturday morning cartoons with Japanese anime. Young Justice brings a colorful rendering of these iconic characters that takes nothing away from some of the series' darker elements.
If I were to throw a criticism at the show, it would be that, at this early stage, M'gann M'orzz (the Martian Manhunter's niece) feels like little more than the token female role. Introduced at the end of Episode Two, M'orzz just feels less crucial than the other members. Hopefully this is something the series will address as it progresses.
So, despite finding little wrong with the show, why am I not going to recommend this DVD? Simple: it does not offer value for money. Whoever made the decision to release the series in volumes is clearly very market savvy, but so, so wrong. Put simply, four episodes are not enough, especially when it is inevitable that a complete season box set is due in the not too distant future. It's just another example of milking parents, and such a shame that it sullies an otherwise excellent show.
The 1.78:1 anamorphic transfer is colorful, with excellent black levels. The picture remains sharp throughout. Perhaps the only flaw I can find is that the image feels a little flat, but otherwise it's hard to fault. The stereo soundtrack impresses with a thumping score and crisp dialogue. The only extras included on the release are a couple of previews of upcoming shows (including the new version of Thundercats).
Feeling very much like a cross between Teen Titans and Justice League Unlimited, Young Justice: Season One, Volume One gets off to a super start, and yet I still can't recommend this DVD. Four episodes is just not enough, and I'd hoped this trend of releasing shows in small volumes would have ended by now. Wait for the full season box set -- from what I've seen of the show it'll be worth it -- but give this release a pass.
Review content copyright © 2011 Paul Pritchard; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: Warner Bros.
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (French)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (Spanish)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 91 Minutes
Release Year: 2010
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Sneak Previews